Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reading Update

Book #20 was The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory. I enjoyed this first book in a proposed trilogy about the Wars of the Roses. I still think my favorite Gregory book so far is The Constant Princess (the link is to my review).

Book #21 was We Need to Talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. I heard Shriver on the BBC's program, World Book Club and wanted to read this book as a result. Even though you know very early on in the book that Kevin is incarcerated because of his role in murdering several people at his school, Shriver manages to fill the story with tension and suspense. Kevin's mother, Eva, narrates the story in a series of letters to Kevin's father, Franklin. While Shriver does a masterful job, I was not completely convinced by Franklin's refusal to believe anything was wrong with Kevin's behavior. I felt Eva's frustration and powerlessness but didn't buy that this was really the way the events would have played out. This is a horrible story and parts of it are very difficult to read. Shriver doesn't have any children and doesn't want to, and you can't blame her if this is her idea of what parenthood is like.

After that one, I needed something lighter, and this next book, #22, Writing Jane Austen, by Elizabeth Aston, was so light that I felt I had to hold on to it firmly, lest it float away. Georgina Jackson has written a literary novel which got critical acclaim but didn't sell at all. Now she is working on her second book, and things aren't going well. Her money is running out and she doesn't know if she will be able to stay in England (she's American). Then she gets an offer to finish a Jane Austen fragment that has been discovered. But shock! Horror! Georgina has never read Jane Austen! She is supposed to be an intelligent author with a PhD (though I didn't believe it for a moment), and yet she begins by reading about Austen's life, traveling to sites connected with her, and speaking at a Jane Austen Society meeting (huh?). Why doesn't she just read the books, already? There are only six of them. I found myself feeling very stressed out for her. Finally she reads them and is, of course, converted to love for Jane Austen. All sorts of nonsensical events take place and there's a happy ending. Aston has written several Austen-related books including Mr. Darcy's Daughters, but I don't think I will be reading any of them. I did enjoy the portrayal of Jane Austen fans who travel around visiting the places where the movies were filmed, Austen's birthplace, and anywhere she ever set foot.

Here's today's Saturday Review of Books.

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